On Tuesday, countless households tuned in to watch as Charlie Brown and the rest of the Peanuts gang pondered the meaning of Christmas. I admit that I have watched the show from my youth, and have always enjoyed both the characters and the special, "A Charlie Brown Christmas."
The Christmas special, originally believed to be a failure in the minds of those bankrolling the project back in 1965, has become as much a part of "Christmas Americana" as other well known favorites like, "It's a Wonderful Life," "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."
Even conservative Christians who believe the Bible to be the divinely inspired, plenary (look it up), infallible, authoritative Word of God show excitement when this favorite returns to the airwaves. How can this be, you ask, when these people are typically known for having a disdain for most things secular? I believe it all hinges on 60 seconds of footage toward the end of the cartoon.
After being terribly frustrated with the consumer mentalities around him, not to mention how badly things are going with the Christmas play, blockhead-turned-director Charlie Brown asks the pivotal question: "Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?"
To the credit of Charles Schulz and Bill Melendez, the show's main creative forces, Linus responds by stepping onto the stage, and reciting Luke 2:8-14 from his King James Bible, reminding us of the true "Reason for the Season," that being the virgin birth of the promised One, the Messiah, the Lamb of God: Jesus Christ.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
I still get shivers up and down my spine when Linus shares the gospel with his cartoon friends. While I do have some sentimental feelings toward this classic, I have to press a hard question: So what? What good came out of Linus sharing the truth of the coming Messiah to Charlie Brown and the rest of the gang?
The rest of the story shows that little to no change of heart happened in the lives of his friends. Sure, there was renewed hope for the little tree, and they sang, "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" together as the credits rolled, but no one responded biblically to the gospel. No one repented of their sins. No one accepted the reality of their lost condition before a holy and righteous God. Sadly, no one was saved by grace through faith in Jesus.
We can be sure that Schulz and Melendez did all they could to bring these biblical truths to their Christmas special. Under the conditions in which they were working, it is surprising that any Scripture made it to the viewers at home. Turning people away from their "consumer Christmas" mentality, though, isn't enough. We need to remember that, unless our loved ones understand of their great need of the Savior, and turn to faith in Christ, a fiery eternity apart from God awaits them.
The beloved "Charlie Brown Christmas" special has once again come and gone, but the Great Commission is still before us. May we, like little Linus Van Pelt, be faithful to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to our family and friends. May we be committed to the hard thing, the uncomfortable thing – for the sake of He who was committed to the most difficult of things when He allowed Himself to be scourged and slain so that sinners might be saved – and share the Father's wonderful plan of salvation with our loved ones this Christmas season.
Editor's Note: The ABC Television Network will again show the animated holiday classic "A Charlie Brown Christmas" on Tuesday, December 15, at 8 p.m. ET. The digitally-remastered 1965 special is also viewable online at abc.go.com.